What is the proper role of coercion and punishment in statecraft? This work illuminates the question afresh by orchestrating a titanic debate: Plato’s account of penal legislation, in his political philosophy of statecraft as soulcraft, vs the accounts elaborated by three recent major political theorists—Arendt, Habermas, and Foucault ... The result is a deeply provocative perspective on the philosophy of crime and punishment. — Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas at Austin
A thought-provoking and exceptionally original exploration of the role of punishment and coercion in Platonic political theory.... A must-read for anyone interested in Platonic political theory. — Waller Newell, Carleton University
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In this magisterial study of coercion and power in Plato there is a subtle but significant difference between Platonic power and modern power in their use of coercion...
... a breathtaking analysis of the Republic, the Laws, and the Gorgias.
This book is about an epochal shift in ideas that changed the nature and meaning of coercion in modern political thought. It begins with a review of Foucault, Arendt, and Habermas, and points out a discrepancy in the way each thinker understood coercion in modern politics. From here, Varma examines Plato’s Republic, Laws, and Gorgias to provide a framework and context for thinking about this. As the author shows, each work demonstrates a particular style of Platonic statecraft that corresponds to the amount of power the philosopher holds in a city. The Republic demonstrates the philosopher’s rule as a monarch; the Laws demonstrates his rule when he must share power with a few spirited statesmen; and the Gorgias demonstrates his rule in a democracy where power belongs to the people. Ultimately, Varma argues that the philosopher used coercion as a supplementary tool to help harmonize man’s soul with the heavens. When Hobbes recast the cosmos as matter in motion, however, power became the highest ordering principle for political life.